Discover the past through evidence from an archaeological site in British Columbia, Canada!
In this investigation students will use geography, history, and archaeology to learn about a Northwest Coast plank house and the Tsimshian people who lived in them.  Examine historic photographs, paintings, artifacts, and maps of the McNichol Creek Site located on the west coast of British Columbia. Students meet Mr. Wayne Ryan, a Tsimshian elder, by reading a biography and oral histories. They “uncover” a real archaeological site, classify artifacts, and infer how the geographic area shaped the plank house.  Explore how the plank house is used today by the Tsimshian people.  Includes historical texts by and about a Tsimshian elder. 

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“The Northwest Coast plank house is a good example of how people cleverly used the resources of a region to fill their needs. The planks constructing the houses were split from large cedar trees using just stone, bone, and antler tools, thousands of years before steel saws were available for them to use. Plank house sites are a valuable record of how people used to live.” —Richard Vanderhoek, Archaeologist

“I enjoyed using, Investigating a Tsimshian Northwest Coast Plank House materials. I found the curriculum to be historically accurate, engaging to both teacher and students, and most importantly it includes the native perspective.” —Julie Yates, Teacher, Craig, Alaska

Instructions for the Teacher:
The teacher’s document is 29 pages, consisting of background information and four sections corresponding with the student notebook. It includes a brief history of the Tshimshian plank house. Quadrant maps from the archaeological site, McNichol Creek Site located on the west coast of British Columbia are provided for students to study and use.

Student Archaeological Notebook:
The student notebook is 27 pages of articles and activities about the McNichol Creek Site. Mr. Wayne Ryan guides students through the investigation. Through archaeology, the study of historic photographs, and oral histories students learn about the importance of the plank house in past and present communities.


When you buy Investigating a Tsimshian Northwest Coast Plank House you will also receive the essential companion products: Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter and access to online introductory videos.

Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter provides teachers and students with seven fundamental lessons on shelter and archaeology. With this pre-requisite, students are ready for Lesson Eight, an investigation of a shelter from the past, such as the Crow Plains Tipi. Finally, in Lesson Nine of Investigating Shelter students learn the enduring understanding that stewardship of archaeological sites and artifacts is everyone’s responsibility. Taught together, Investigating Shelter and Investigating a Tsimshian Northwest Coast Plank House is a complete, comprehensive unit that truly allows for a deep understanding of shelter and archaeology. More information

Investigating Shelter videos are a professional development experience for educators in lieu of attending a Project Archaeology workshop. Watch Project Archaeology lessons in action! See a professional development workshop and a teacher guiding a 4th grade class through Investigating Shelter. Instructors model Understanding by Design and archaeological inquiry. Plus, see interviews with teachers and students! The videos are also available on our Teacher Page.

    1. Introduction – Why archaeology matters
    2. Investigating Shelter and Understanding by Design
    3. Lesson Two: By Our Houses You Will Know Us
    4. Lesson Four: Observation, Inference, and Evidence
    5. Lesson Six: Context Game
    6. Lesson Eight: Being an Archaeologist